All of Thakkar’s siblings live in the US. She also thinks of her co-workers as her second family. Her social network on Devon avenue is crucial for her feeling at home in the U.S. She was pleased to find herself in a place that felt Indian, where Hindi and Gujarati were spoken, where Indian Independence day is celebrated with an annual parade, and where Diwali is observed with cordiality and friendship. She fondly calls Devon Avenue, Little India.
Both her daughters have grown up in Chicago and Thakkar considers Chicago her home. Nevertheless she misses life in India, where friends, neighbors, relatives and immediate families lived in close contact and were part of one another’s daily life. She fondly recalls aspects of life in Gujarat— the foods, familiar haunts, the walks she took and bike rides with her friends. She tries to keep some of those memories alive in Chicago, at least when it comes to preparing familiar food. During her visits to India she brings spices back with her. New communication technology such as SKYPE has helped her maintain regular contact with her relatives and friends back in Gujarat. While video chatting with Thakkar, her Indian friends take her to her favorite stores in India. Thakkar directs her friends as they shop for her in these stores. She remains connected across continents. But, there are certain kinds of distances that even technology cannot bridge. The smell of raindrops on dirt is what she thinks of when she thinks of Gujarat. Yearning for that smell, the experience of being in Gujarat during the rains remains unfulfilled.
Thakkar talks about Des Plaines as well, and how there is a vibrant South Asian community there as well. She often sees groups of Indian women walking, or picnicking, or even arranging communal worship in the nearby park. Jovially, lovingly, she refers to Des Plaines as Desi Plaines—the hindi word desi, referring to people from the same native land. Alpa Thakkar is a cosmopolitan worldly traveler, yet the memory and yearning for home continues to haunt her.
Text by Salman Hussain
Her impressions of Devon Ave.
Life in Gujarat.
Rain in Gujarat.